Strategic Librarian

Using strategy to develop the law firm library.


ABA 2010 Legal Technology Survey – v.5 Online Research

I received a copy of the ABA 2010 Legal Technology Survey last week.  I was more than happy to get it as I’ve regularly used statistics from the Online Research volume.  I would recommend its purchase as this year’s survey is exceptional in its review of how lawyers use technology while researching.  It also provides a look at how those same lawyers interact with their law firm library. 

Here are a couple questions and answers I found especially interesting for the 100+ lawyer firm population.  Note: all percentages are rounded from the original % in the survey:


How often do you request legal research (both legal materials and non-legal materials that are case-related) from the following – Firm librarians?




While the 12% for never doesn’t surprise me, the 43% for occasionally is troubling and the 18% for regularly is even more disconcerting.  As to the occasional users, this is 43% of lawyers who have asked the library to do research but did not decide to return for help regularly. 

If I were in marketing, I would focus on that group in particular.  They’ve seen the benefit of the library doing research enough to return occasionally but haven’t turned into regular customers.  If I were to ask the same question in a survey that I did for a law firm library and got these results, I would suggest that the library interview those who are occasional users to find out why. 

The interview should start out with the question, “Would you tell me about your practice?”, followed by “What are your biggest frustrations in finding information?”, and go from there.  Don’t focus on telling them what you can do for them, instead, find out what their needs are.  This approach is marketing.  Telling them what you can do is selling.

Additionally, I would suggest that they talk to their regular users to find out what makes them so.  I would also ask those users if they would be willing to provide testimonials and referrals when they have the opportunity – or more formally, at their practice group meetings when the library presents.


Where do you go first to start a research project?



These statistics paint a somewhat bleak picture.  I really don’t know where to start with my thoughts on this.  If you think back to how research used to be done, it generally started with editorial analysis of a legal issue using a print treatise.   I guess shouldn’t be surprised by the 13% for print.   Afterall, it is well-known that lawyers coming out of law school during the last 5-10 years prefer online.

It’s the 54% for free online services and the 30% for online fee based services that are more troubling.  I’m not saying that free services have no place in research.  They do if they are services that are authoritative, can be relied on, aren’t biased, etc. 

What worries me is that I don’t really know what resources these lawyers are using.   According to the ABA survey, 36.7% of lawyers in the 100+ lawyer firms are using Google search most often for their “free” research rather than using authoritative sources.  While the number is the largest in a group that included Findlaw, 10.9%; LexisOne, 1.4%; Government websites, 22.4%; State Bar Association offerings, 9.5%; or the Cornell Legal Information Institute, 13.6%, it doesn’t tell us much about what resources are actually being used.

I guess I should trust that these lawyers know what they are doing.  If I didn’t have 20+ years of experience of seeing new law classes coming to work in law firms without a clue of how to get started with their research, I might be able to do just that. 

In the days when print research was used more readily, at least, I knew that someone using the print to learn about a legal issue before going online (fee based) was using a resource that was generally credible and authoritative.  Now, I’m not so sure.  So what can be done to allow librarians (and partners) to feel better about the use of online over print?

Whether law firms what to invest the time or not, training is really the best way to handle this troubling issue.  At my last law firm, we were able to get a training session approved as required training for new fall associates (we did something similar for summers).  This session focused on how to use the print and online resources most effectively. 

If I were working with a law firm in today’s research world, I would suggest offering similar training, followed by assignments of research mentors (something we did at my last firm as well).  

Look for more highlights from the survey along with commentary in our next blog post.  Also, I would be extremely pleased to hear from you on these thoughts.

Legal Resource Product Preferences : Request for Survey Participants

You will want to pay attention to this request from FreePint. Participants get a free copy of a VIP Report on Bloomberg Law.  VIP product reviews are unmatched in the industry.  I subscribe to VIP Report.  It’s a great resource.

FreePint is conducting a survey of law libraries on their preferences and perspectives on major vendors and types of content. If you work in a law library, please take 10-15 minutes to complete this anonymous survey:

Provide an email address near the end of the survey (not associated with your responses) and you’ll receive a free copy of the resulting report, plus a preview copy of an upcoming VIP Report on Bloomberg Law.

Preview of interesting results to date:

* 100% of respondents report use of legal blogs in their firms; librarians are more likely to be using them than patrons (e.g., attorneys, paralegals), and librarians tend to go right to the source rather than accessing them via vendor platforms.

* Only 40% of respondents, however, use legal videos. When videos are in use, they are more likely used by the patrons than the library.

* Budget changes seem a bit more dramatic in the legal sector than in other sectors FreePint has studied recently: Only 10% report that they expect next year’s budget to remain flat (compared with 35% of respondents in other sectors), and 70% expect some decreases.

Will your responses shift the numbers? There’s only one way to find out. Complete the survey now:

If you have questions about this project, please feel free to contact Robin directly.

Robin Neidorf

General Manager & Lead Researcher, FreePint
+44 (0) 1784 605000 (UK)
+1 (612) 392-2312 (US, direct)

J. J. Keller Economic Impact Survey Alert

J. J. Keller & Associates, HR consultants and publisher of HR resources, just announced their second annual Economic Impact Survey.  This survey will provide a glimpse into how the eonomy has altered information center’s  collections, staffing, outsourcing, etc.  Participants will get a copy of the survey results. 

J.J. Keller isn’t new to offering support to information professional demonstrated by their support of the SLA Innovation in Technologies award.

Thanks to Gary Price’s ResourceShelf for the alert to this survey.

West Releases 3RD Quarter 2008 PeerMonitor Index

West, a Thomson Reuters business released the 3rd Quarter PeerMonitor Index in recent days.  The market analysis shows a decline from last quarter, stating:

Billable hours experienced a -5% contraction through August. But September hours rebounded, finishing the entire quarter down by only -2.5%. Productivity remained weak at -4.5% as adjustments to headcount lagged market conditions. Rates again were strong, and all told, fees grew at 5.5% compared to 10.5% a year ago. Direct expense growth slowed to 8% compared to over 9% a year ago. Overhead was 6%.

In addition to the index being made available, West developed a Podcast that provides a summary of what the Index tells us.

One interesting trend it reports on is the fact that the AmLaw 100 firms are experiencing more of an effect from the current downtrend than the AmLaw 200 are experiencing. 

Here at Strategic Librarian we’ve done a poll on library budgets (see 2009 Budget – Do You Get to Increase or Decrease?).  While certainly not scientific especially with so few responses, the responses do seem to indicate that the east coast has experienced more in ways of cutbacks in budget for 2009 than those firms in the middle of the country.  If you haven’t participated in the poll, please check it out and respond.  Click here for the results to date.

2009 Budget – Do You Get to Increase or Decrease?

Many of you are probably already done preparing your budget for 2009.  I’ve heard from some of you that you’ve been asked to reduce your budgets significantly given the current economic environment.  At the same time, some firms are asking their library directors/managers to keep the budget flat.   As far as I know, there aren’t many who have been tasked with managing a small increase but there may be some. 

With what I’ve heard, I thought it would be interesting to do a quick survey regarding increases and decreases in law firm library budgets.  Besides the possibility that it might provide some interesting information, it also gives me an opportunity to try out the MicroPoll polling site.  

To participate, click on Take Poll.  Once you’ve entered your answer, you should be taken to a page where you can see the results.  Check back occasionally to see how others have answered the question.  I will post final results with a new question about how law firm library online resources budgets are faring.

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Getting to Know Your Client’s Needs : Using Surveys as a Marketing Tool

Nina Platt Consulting often works on projects that include customer research using web-based, telephone, and in-person surveys.  Asking your clients what they need is groundwork for deciding on services/products offered.  Your services or products will not be successful if you developed them in a vacuum without the knowledge that customer research provides.

As this is a topic central to what I do, I was pleased to be asked to present a webinar for Thomson West Librarian Relations during National Library Week in April. My topic was using surveys for customer/client research.   The audience was primarily librarians from private law libraries, so I used the topic of cost recovery as my example as I created a survey. 

To view a recording of the session go to the Thomson West Law Librarian Resource Center and click on Getting to Know Your Client’s Needs : Using Surveys as a Marketing Tool under What’s New.  If you are interested in the slides without the audio, click on the Slideshare view below.

Finally, to view the survey I created for demo purposes, go to  You will need to answer questions to get through the survey.  To see the results of the survey, go to